I. A law to moderate the scourging of malefactors,
II. A law in favour of the ox the treads out the corn,
III. For the disgracing of him that refused to marry his brother's
IV. For the punishment of an immodest woman,
V. For just weights and measures,
VI. For the destroying of Amalek,
|Stripes Not to Exceed Forty.
||B. C. 1451.|
1 If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto
judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall
justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked.
2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten,
that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten
before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.
3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if
he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes,
then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.
4 Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.
I. A direction to the judges in scourging malefactors,
1. It is here supposed that, if a man be charged with a crime, the
accuser and the accused (Actor and Reus) should be
brought face to face before the judges, that the controversy may be
2. If a man were accused of a crime, and the proof fell short, so that
the charge could not be made out against him by the evidence, then he
was to be acquitted: "Thou shalt justify the righteous," that
is, "him that appears to the court to be so." If the accusation be
proved, then the conviction of the accused is a justification of the
accuser, as righteous in the prosecution.
3. If the accused were found guilty, judgment must be given against
him: "Thou shalt condemn the wicked;" for to justify the wicked
is as much an abomination to the Lord as it is to condemn the
4. If the crime were not made capital by the law, then the criminal
must be beaten. A great many precepts we have met with which have not
any particular penalty annexed to them, the violation of most of which,
according to the constant practice of the Jews, was punished by
scourging, from which no person's rank or quality did exempt him if he
were a delinquent, but with this proviso, that he should never be
upbraided with it, nor should it be looked upon as leaving any mark of
infamy or disgrace upon him. The directions here given for the
scourging of criminals are,
(1.) That it be done solemnly; not tumultuously through the streets,
but in open court before the judge's face, and with so much
deliberation as that the stripes might be numbered. The Jews say that
while execution was in doing the chief justice of the court read with a
and concluded with those words
But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity. Thus
it was made a sort of religious act, and so much the more likely to
reform the offender himself and to be a warning to others.
(2.) That it be done in proportion to the crime, according to his
fault, that some crimes might appear, as they are, more heinous
than others, the criminal being beaten with many stripes, to
which perhaps there is an allusion,
(3.) That how great soever the crime were the number of stripes should
never exceed forty,
Forty save one was the common usage, as appears,
2 Corinthians 11:24.
It seems, they always gave Paul as many stripes as ever they gave to
any malefactor whatsoever. They abated one for fear of having
miscounted (though one of the judges was appointed to number the
stripes), or because they would never go to the utmost rigour, or
because the execution was usually done with a whip of three lashes, so
that thirteen stripes (each one being counted for three) made up
thirty-nine, but one more by that reckoning would have been forty-two.
The reason given for this is, lest thy brother should seem vile unto
thee. He must still be looked upon as a brother
(2 Thessalonians 3:15),
and his reputation as such was preserved by this merciful limitation of
his punishment. It saves him from seeming vile to his brethren, when
God himself by his law takes this care of him. Men must not be treated
as dogs; nor must those seem vile in our sight to whom, for aught we
know, God may yet give grace to make them precious in his sight.
II. A charge to husbandmen not to hinder their cattle from eating when
they were working, if meat were within their reach,
This instance of the beast that trod out the corn (to which there is an
allusion in that of the prophet,
is put for all similar instances. That which makes this law very
remarkable above its fellows (and which countenances the like
application of other such laws) is that it is twice quoted in the New
Testament to show that it is the duty of the people to give their
ministers a comfortable maintenance,
1 Corinthians 9:9,10,
1 Timothy 5:17,18.
It teaches us in the letter of it to make much of the brute-creatures
that serve us, and to allow them not only the necessary supports for
their life, but the advantages of their labour; and thus we must learn
not only to be just, but kind, to all that are employed for our good,
not only to maintain but to encourage them, especially those that
labour among us in the word and doctrine, and so are employed for the
good of our better part.
|Marriage of a Brother's Wife.
||B. C. 1451.|
5 If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no
child, the wife of the dead shall not marry without unto a
stranger: her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take
her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother
6 And it shall be, that the firstborn which she beareth shall
succeed in the name of his brother which is dead, that his name
be not put out of Israel.
7 And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let
his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My
husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in
Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.
8 Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto
him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her;
9 Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence
of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in
his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that
man that will not build up his brother's house.
10 And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him
that hath his shoe loosed.
11 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of
the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand
of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh
him by the secrets:
12 Then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity
I. The law settled concerning the marrying of the brother's widow. It
appears from the story of Judah's family that this had been an ancient
for the keeping up of distinct families. The case put is a case that
often happens, of a man's dying without issue, it may be in the prime
of his time, soon after his marriage, and while his brethren were yet
so young as to be unmarried. Now in this case,
1. The widow was not to marry again into any other family, unless all
the relations of her husband did refuse her, that the estate she was
endowed with might not be alienated.
2. The husband's brother, or next of kin, must marry her, partly out of
respect to her, who, having forgotten her own people and her father's
house, should have all possible kindness shown her by the family into
which she was married; and partly out of respect to the deceased
husband, that though he was dead and gone he might not be forgotten,
nor lost out of the genealogies of his tribe; for the first-born child,
which the brother or next kinsman should have by the widow, should be
denominated from him that was dead, and entered in the genealogy as his
Under that dispensation we have reason to think men had not so clear
and certain a prospect of living themselves on the other side death as
we have now, to whom life and immortality are brought to light by
the gospel; and therefore they could not but be the more desirous
to live in their posterity, which innocent desire was in some measure
gratified by this law, an expedient being found out that, though a man
had no child by his wife, yet his name should not be put out of
Israel, that is, out of the pedigree, or, which is equivalent,
remain there under the brand of childlessness. The Sadducees put a
case to our Saviour upon this law, with a design to perplex the
doctrine of the resurrection by it
insinuating that there was no need of maintaining the immortality of
the soul and a future state, since the law had so well provided for the
perpetuating of men's names and families in the world. But,
3. If the brother, or next of kin, declined to do this good office to
the memory of him that was gone, what must be done in that case? Why,
(1.) He shall not be compelled to do it,
If he like her not, he is at liberty to refuse her, which, some think,
was not permitted in this case before this law of Moses. Affection is
all in all to the comfort of the conjugal relation; this is a thing
which cannot be forced, and therefore the relation should not be forced
(2.) Yet he shall be publicly disgraced for not doing it. The widow, as
the person most concerned for the name and honour of the deceased, was
to complain to the elders of his refusal; if he persist in it, she must
pluck off his shoe, and spit in his face, in open court (or, as
the Jewish doctors moderate it, spit before his face), thus to
fasten a mark of infamy upon him, which was to remain with his family
Note, Those justly suffer in their own reputation who do not do what
they ought to preserve the name and honour of others. He that would not
build up his brother's house deserved to have this blemish put upon his
own, that it should be called the house of him that had his shoe
loosed, in token that he deserved to go barefoot. In the case of
Ruth we find this law executed
but because, upon the refusal of the next kinsman, there was another
ready to perform the duty of a husband's brother, it was that other
that plucked off the shoe, and not the widow--Boaz, and not Ruth.
II. A law for the punishing of an immodest woman,
The woman that by the foregoing law was to complain against her
husband's brother for not marrying her, and to spit in his face before
the elders, needed a good measure of assurance; but, lest the
confidence which that law supported should grow to an excess unbecoming
the sex, here is a very severe but just law to punish impudence and
1. The instance of it is confessedly scandalous to the highest degree.
A woman could not do it unless she were perfectly lost to all virtue
2. The occasion is such as might in part excuse it; it was to help her
husband out of the hands of one that was too hard for him. Now if the
doing of it in a passion, and with such a good intention, was to be so
severely punished, much more when it was done wantonly and in lust.
3. The punishment was that her hand should be cut off; and the
magistrates must not pretend to be more merciful than God: Thy eye
shall not pity her. Perhaps our Saviour alludes to this law when he
commands us to cut off the right hand that offends us, or
is an occasion of sin to us. Better put the greatest hardships that can
be upon the body than ruin the soul for ever. Modesty is the hedge of
chastity, and therefore ought to be very carefully preserved and kept
up by both sexes.
|Amalek to Be Destroyed.
||B. C. 1451.|
13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a
14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great
and a small.
15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect
and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened
in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
16 For all that do such things, and all that do
unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God.
17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were
come forth out of Egypt;
18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee,
even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint
and weary; and he feared not God.
19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee
rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the
LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it,
that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under
heaven; thou shalt not forget it.
I. A law against deceitful weights and measures: they must not only not
use them, but they must not have them, not have them in the bag, not
have them in the house
for, if they had them, they would be strongly tempted to use them.
They must not have a great weight and measure to buy by and a small one
to sell by, for that was to cheat both ways, when either was bad
enough; as we read of those that made the ephah small, in which
they measured the corn they sold, and the shekel great, by which
they weighed the money they received for it,
But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight,
That which is the rule of justice must itself be just; if that be
otherwise, it is a constant cheat. This had been taken care of before,
This law is enforced with two very good reasons:--
1. That justice and equity will bring down upon us the blessing of God.
The way to have our days lengthened, and to prosper, is to be just and
fair in all our dealings Honesty is the best policy.
2. That fraud and injustice will expose us to the curse of God,
Not only unrighteousness itself, but all that do unrighteously, are an
abomination to the Lord. And miserable is that man who is
abhorred by his Maker. How hateful, particularly, all the arts of
deceit are to God, Solomon several times observes,
and the apostle tells us that the Lord is the avenger of all
such as overreach and defraud in any matter,
1 Thessalonians 4:6.
II. A law for the rooting out of Amalek. Here is a just weight
and a just measure, that, as Amalek had measured to Israel, so
it should be measure to Amalek again.
1. The mischief Amalek did to Israel must be here remembered,
When it was first done it was ordered to be recorded
and here the remembrance of it is ordered to be preserved, not in
personal revenge (for that generation which suffered by the Amalekites
was gone, so that those who now lived, and their posterity, could not
have any personal resentment of the injury), but in a zeal for the
glory of God (which was insulted by the Amalekites), that throne of
the Lord against which the hand of Amalek was stretched out. The
carriage of the Amalekites towards Israel is here represented,
(1.) As very base and disingenuous. They had no occasion at all to
quarrel with Israel, nor did they give them any notice, by a manifesto
or declaration of war; but took them at an advantage, when they had
just come out of the house of bondage, and, for aught that appeared to
them, were only going to sacrifice to God in the wilderness.
(2.) As very barbarous and cruel; for they smote those that were more
feeble, whom they should have succoured. The greatest cowards are
commonly the most cruel; while those that have the courage of a man
will have the compassion of a man.
(3.) As very impious and profane: they feared not God. If they had had
any reverence for the majesty of the God of Israel, which they saw a
token of in the cloud, or any dread of his wrath, which they lately
heard of the power of over Pharaoh, they durst not have made this
assault upon Israel. Well, here was the ground of the quarrel: and it
shows how God takes what is done against his people as done against
himself, and that he will particularly reckon with those that
discourage and hinder young beginners in religion, that (as Satan's
agents) set upon the weak and feeble, either to divert them or to
disquiet them, and offend his little ones.
2. This mischief must in due time be revenged,
When their wars were finished, by which they were to settle their
kingdom and enlarge their coast, then they must make war upon
not merely to chase them, but to consume them, to blot out the
remembrance of Amalek. It was an instance of God's patience that he
deferred the vengeance so long, which should have led the Amalekites to
repentance; yet an instance of fearful retribution that the posterity
of Amalek, so long after, were destroyed for the mischief done by their
ancestors to the Israel of God, that all the world might see, and say,
that he who toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye. It was
nearly 400 years after this that Saul was ordered to put this sentence
(1 Samuel 15:1-35),
and was rejected of God because he did not do
it effectually, but spared some of that devoted nation, in contempt,
not only of the particular orders he received from Samuel, but of this
general command here given by Moses, which he could not be ignorant of.
David afterwards made some destruction of them; and the Simeonites, in
Hezekiah's time, smote the rest that remained
(1 Chronicles 4:43);
for when God judges he will overcome.